Spearhead of Web3, the Frenchman The Sandox has managed to conquer his place among the world leaders in metaverses. The co-founder reveals his vision of these universes whose challenge now is to please the general public.
JDN. How has The Sandbox grown since its last $93 million Series B fundraiser in October 2021?
Sebastien Borget. We launched our first alpha season in December last year, which was playable for a month. Nearly 2 million users have created an account for approximately 100,000 active players. In March 2022, we launched Alpha Season 2 with 35 experiences created by both brands and community. The players were therefore surprised to see the reconstruction of Snoop Dogg’s mansion or of the Hong Kong harbor. These experiences brought together nearly 350,000 active players for a month. At the end of June, we counted more than 21,500 virtual landowners, establishing The Sandbox as the decentralized virtual world with the largest distribution in terms of ownership. In total, nearly 3 million users have created their avatar and wallet.
How is The Sandbox different from other metaverses such as Decentraland, Roblox, Horizon World (Meta), etc?
The Sandbox is a decentralized 3D universe where users own all their content. Thanks to NFT, they have complete freedom to manage their digital assets as they see fit. So they can trade or sell the NFTs created on The Sandbox, be it avatars, gear, land, etc., on other marketplaces. This is the whole benefit of the interoperability that we advocate. Conversely, it is also possible to import NFTs created elsewhere and play with them in The Sandbox, for example by converting collections of 2D images into animated 3D characters. Our vision is that digital identity should not remain on one platform. Finally, another difference is that 95% of the revenue generated is returned to users. Our currency, SAND, is freely traded on more than 100 exchanges around the world.
The metaverse has been on everyone’s lips since Zuckerberg’s October 2021 announcement to position Meta on this concept, but is it a true technological disruption?
I really believe it. The Sandbox tries to show that it is possible to offer users more than video games or social hubs. The difference in my view will be in the level of content, the experiences offered but also the people you can meet. For example, on The Sandbox it is possible to attend virtual concerts, stroll through art galleries, visit museums, etc. The metaverse should be based on imagination and creativity. You should focus on the user experience rather than trying to create a transaction or commercial relationship. People don’t come to shop in the metaverse, they mainly come to socialize and receive value from the creators and brands present in these 3D universes.
“The goal is not to sell more and more new content, but to increase exchanges and increase the value of existing content”
What are Sandbox’s main revenue streams?
Land sales are our main source of income. We have already sold almost 70% of the available land. We also collect a 5% commission on all NFT transactions. This premium content can be created by creators, as well as brands we support when they arrive on The Sandbox. This model is interesting because it implies that the success of The Sandbox will mainly depend on the ability of creators to create original collections and experiences to attract more users. The goal is not to sell more and more new content, as is the case on other traditional video game platforms, but rather to increase exchanges and increase the value of existing content. This includes creating utilities around these NFTs to interest users in preserving them, e.g. giving them access to concerts, exclusive events, etc.
So you don’t believe in Meta’s advertising model?
Meta is a company that has become champions of collecting data against the wishes of users to sell it indirectly to advertisers. The use of the product is free because it is the users who monetize the product. Very often, when one tries to show more and more ads to users, the experience tends to get worse. That’s not what we want at The Sandbox, which is why our metaverse design is different. It’s still early to really define what will become of the metavers. In five or ten years’ time, The Sandbox will certainly have a different shape than it is today, but our goal of bringing everyone’s fantasy to life and being able to live on it will not change.
What are the experiences of the brands that have impressed you the most and what would your advice be for their destination?
Of the 300 companies present in The Sandbox, we often mention Carrefour, HSBC or even Axa. But in reality, we have many brands operating in the entertainment business. For example, I can name music artists, video game studios, fashion brands like Adidas or Gucci, movie studios like Lionsgate or even a few licenses like The Walking Dead. Ultimately, all industries should end up in the metaverse. We are still in the experimentation phase to find the recipe that will make users want to spend more time in the metaverse. Companies and creators can already use our no-code tool to offer new experience formats.
Second Life had also raised a lot of expectations at the time. What mistakes do you think have been made and why would today’s 3D universes have a greater chance of success?
The Sandbox didn’t invent anything. In reality, all the ingredients were already there. I think the biggest problem with virtual worlds like Second Life was that they weren’t designed to keep users coming back on a regular basis. In reality, they were seen more as promotion and transaction spaces where it was difficult to meet other players. The experience there was quite boring. Simulating what exists in the real world in the same way is of little interest to users. At The Sandbox, we rely on creativity and imagination to create new entertainment formats. This works because users return from one alpha season to another. After 30 days, almost 60% of users are still engaged.
What is still missing in the sector to entice the general public?
The problem is that the work of creators often gets stuck on one platform. Creators who have invested a lot of time on one platform don’t want to start all over again on another. It’s a perverse psychological effect and a real mess. The Web3, thanks to the blockchain, should give these digital assets other uses and be able to exchange them freely. When I buy a pair of shoes or an object in the real world, I can dispose of them however I want. It should be the same on Web3. That’s why I think in the long run the virtual economy should outperform the real world.
Are you in talks with other players to facilitate this interoperability? Exchanges?
Each actor is free to choose his approach. My belief is that once users understand that they have the freedom to freely sell and trade their digital assets without being tied to one platform, there will be no going back to a fully centralized world. We do not aim to integrate or partner with platforms that are not interested in these technologies. Our vision is not of a centralized world where the platforms set the rules and where the user has nothing to say
Sébastien Borget is the co-founder and COO of the decentralized metaverse The Sandbox, a virtual world where players can create, play, own, control and monetize their experiences using NFTs and SAND, the main utility token of the platform. He also became the president of the Blockchain Game Alliance in 2020, a non-profit organization with 300 key industry members. Before founding mobile game publisher Pixowl, he worked at Ipercast and Wixi.com. He graduated from Telecom SudParis.